ABC Western Plains Breakfast interview with Nic Healy

Nic Healy, HOST: Norfolk Island. Now, the island has seen some pretty extensive shipping delays over the past few years. It’s something you and I have spoken about a lot. It’s meant bare supermarket shelves. It’s meant high prices, thanks to the cost of air freight. That’s meant a lot of ongoing anger and frustration for Norfolk Islanders. Now. The Minister for Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain. She’s going to be on the island in November. She wants a public forum where residents can give their solutions on how to get this situation under control. I spoke to her a little bit earlier. Minister, you are heading back to Norfolk Island. You said last time we spoke that you were pushing towards some solutions for the ongoing shipping problems that the island has been facing. What are the next steps?

Kristy McBain, MINISTER: We’ll be holding a shipping forum in Norfolk Island in November, and I’m looking forward to getting back with the community and talking about some of those short-term issues, but also about long-term solutions. Norfolk Island has a history of hundreds of years of shipping, and we need as an Australian Government to take into account some of the expertise that’s already built up on island in the formation of those short- and long-term solutions.

Nic Healy: The short-term solutions are pretty significant at the moment. Certainly, speaking to people on the island, there’s a lot of concern about what’s happening in the next few weeks. Is there anything that might occur before that November day?

Kristy McBain: Look, we have been putting on additional air freight services at a cost to the Australian Government. We are also dealing with a number of shipping issues, a number of unsolicited bids that come into government. But we want a coordinated approach, and we think it’s really important that community have a say in that and that we are working together on designing what the long-term future of shipping is going to be to Norfolk Island. So, I’m keen to get back there, listen to the community, and design short- and long-term solutions that are going to work for the community.

Nic Healy: Minister, what are you hoping will actually come out of a community forum like this? What kind of direct influence are you hoping that that’ll be able to have?

Kristy McBain: I think it’s really important. The things that I heard on island when I was there the first time was that the community felt like they didn’t have a say, that they had expertise to give. And we took that quite seriously as a department and myself, as representative of the Albanese Government, that, you know, we need to get back to first principles and that’s actually listening to people and working with them to move forward with those solutions. So, I think that’s important to me, but I know it’s important to the community that they felt heard and respected in any process involving them.

Nic Healy: Can we take your regular or, considering your predecessor, regular trips to Norfolk Island as a bit of a, I guess, setting the scene of how you are hoping to fulfil your ministerial role.

Kristy McBain: Look, I take grassroots community consultation pretty seriously, having come from a local government background and I know how important it is to communities, whether they’re large or small, to feel valued and heard. I mean, at the end of the day, these are the people that are experiencing the issues day in, day out, and we as decision makers need to take into account their lived experience and work with community to design outcomes that will work for them.

Nic Healy: Minister, in terms of what’s happening with the administration, we know that Eric Hutchinson’s term as Administrator wraps up early next year. What are you hoping to do?

Kristy McBain: We will be going out through a transparent recruitment process. That position will be open for applications on 16 October and looking forward to passionate people putting their names forward so that we can work with the administrator and the community on designing really good process back to the Australian Government. So, looking forward to that appointment process.

Nic Healy: So, you would want to see more community interaction with the administrator, something that I hear from people living on the island that felt like there hasn’t been a lot of great communication there.

Kristy McBain: Look, I think the current administrator has fulfilled his duties and his term and I am looking forward to working with the next administrator of Norfolk Island to make sure that we are working with the community. That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be happy all the time, but my aim is to make sure that people feel heard and valued and that there is a really good sense of communication and collaboration between the island and the Government.

Nic Healy: A very diplomatic response. Minister, thank you for your time this morning.

Kristy McBain: Thank you very much.

Nic Healy: Minister for the Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain.